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Los Angeles City Council member takes leave and labor union leader resigns amid scandal involving racist remarks


By Chris Boyette, Stella Chan and Ray Sanchez, CNN

Los Angeles City Council member Nury Martinez took a leave of absence and a labor union leader resigned as the fallout widened from a leaked audio recording of racist remarks by Martinez about a fellow council member and his Black child.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, a White man who, along with his Black child, was the target of the remarks, told protesters at Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting that he was “angry and heartbroken.”

Protesters delayed the start of the meeting, where Bonin said he would have preferred to be home with family as he tried to wrap his head around the controversy.

“My husband and I are both raw and angry and heartbroken and sick for our family and for Los Angeles,” he said. “Public officials are supposed to call us to our highest selves and these people stabbed us and shot us and cut the very spirit of Los Angeles. It gave a beat down to the heart and soul of the city.”

Ron Herrera, the president of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor — who was part of the leaked conversation — resigned at a meeting Monday, the union said in a statement in which it called on elected officials who were present when the racist remarks were made to step down as well.

Martinez took a leave of absence on Tuesday, one day after resigning as city council president.

The acting president of the council, Mitch O’Farrell, said at the loud and contentious council meeting Tuesday that all three council members who were present during the leaked conversation should resign.

“I do not believe we can have the healing that is necessary or govern as we need to” while those who were there remain on the council, O’Farrell said, adding his voice to the chorus calling for their full resignations.

O’Farrell implored the three to “consider what is best for the city and the people of Los Angeles.”

“This has been one of the most difficult times of my life and I recognize this is entirely of my own making,” she said in a statement. “At this moment, I need to take a leave of absence and take some time to have an honest and heartfelt conversation with my family, my constituents, and community leaders. I am so sorry to the residents of Council District 6, my colleagues, and the City of Los Angeles.”

Bonin wiped back tears while speaking at the council meeting.

“I’m a dad who loves his son in ways that words cannot capture,” he said. “And I take a lot of hits but my son, man that makes my soul bleed and it makes my temper burn and I know I’m not alone because Los Angeles has spoken and it feels the same way.”

Protesters delayed the meeting’s start, chanting for the ousters of the local officials involved in the racist conversation.

Earlier Tuesday, Thom Davis, chair of the union’s executive board, said in a statement that racism “in any form has no place in the House of Labor.

“It is unconscionable that those elected to fight for our communities of color would engage in repulsive and vile anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Asian and anti-Oaxacan remarks that pit our working communities against each other. These sentiments will not be tolerated by our organization or those who we represent.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the leaked audio details a conversation among Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Herrera that focused on maps proposed by the city’s redistricting commission and the councilmembers’ frustration with them.

On Tuesday, Cedillo and de León left the council chambers amid chants of “resign now” before acting President Mitch O’Farrell called on Bonin to address the public.

Martinez was heard in the leaked audio making racist remarks about Bonin and his child.

Herrera has not responded to CNN’s request for comment, but the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO tweeted an apology from him.

“There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period,” the apology said. “And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward.”

In its statement, the union said, “Equality and justice for all no matter your race or the color of your skin are the core of the labor movement and the work of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. As we move forward, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, on behalf of our over 300 affiliates and over 800,000 workers, remains united in the fight to dismantle racism through our solidarity and our commitment to protecting the rights of working people.”

The leaked audio was posted anonymously on Reddit and obtained by the Times.

When talking about the redistricting maps, the councilmembers discussed the need to “ensure that heavily Latino districts did not lose economic assets” in the once-in-a-decade process, according to the Times.

The councilmembers then discussed Bonin. In clips of the leaked audio posted by the Times, Martinez is heard recounting a conversation and says, “Bonin thinks he’s f**king Black.”

According to the Times, Martinez says Bonin appeared with his son on a float in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and he “handled his young Black son as though he were an accessory.” The boy is 8 years old, according to a Facebook post by his father.

The Times reported that Martinez also said of Bonin’s child, “Parece changuito,” or “He’s like a monkey.”

In a statement Monday, Martinez apologized for the comments. “I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, O’Farrell called for an expansion of the council and an independent redistricting commission to map out representation of the “diverse metropolis.”

The acting president proposed “big changes to the way we do business,” including “major reform of the city charter, city council and how we approach redistricting, representation — the topics at the center of this crisis.”

The number of members — 15 — has not changed since 1925, when the city boasted just under a million residents, O’Farrell said. Today, there are approximately four times that many people living within city limits, according to US Census data.

“This council should reflect and represent the residents we serve,” O’Farrell said. “A ballot measure that increases the number of council seats to help us meet that goal and involve Angelenos in the process, as will an immediate redistricting process should the people decide they want an expanded city council.”

When the council reconvenes Wednesday, they will discuss another ballot measure that calls for an independent redistricting commission that will determine the boundaries reset every 10 years.

A motion to elect a new council president will be heard next Tuesday, October 18.

Martinez’s resignation as president was effective immediately, according to the statement, though she remains a member of the council.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Camila Bernal, Sarah Moon and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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